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here we go. breaking news on this friday afternoon. i'm brooke baldwin. you are watching cnn's special coverage of the escalating situation in syria. happening right now, we are learning at least part of what the white house knows when it comes to syria. i'm talking specifically about the release of this. this is the u.s. government assessment of the syrian government's use of chemical weapons. specifically talking about august 21, 2013. this is a declassified, four-page report here. declassified. that is serving as proof that
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bashar al assad used chemical weapons on his own people. we heard from the top diplomat in this country, the secretary of state john kerry saying specifically, 1,429. that was the new number today. that's the number of people killed in that attack on august 21st of this year. hundreds of them children. reason enough, according to secretary kerry, for the united states to do something about it. >> the american people are tired of war. believe me, i am, too. but fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about. and history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator's wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common
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understanding of decency. these things, we do know. >> this is, of course, one of the huge new developments on syria today. keep in mind, we just heard in the last hour from secretary kerry. this hour, we will get news from the president. he is scheduled to speak. and we're expecting comments on syria. that will happen sometime this hour. so stay tuned to cnn. special coverage for that. just this afternoon, we also learned of another alleged chemical attack in syria. this is separate to the one, separate to this report, separate to what those u.n. weapons inspectors in country have been investigating. and here at cnn, we have the horrifying pictures. so if you need to turn away, just going to give you a minute. do so now. because i want to stress here, this video is extremely tough to watch. [ speaking in foreign language ]
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>> the cries. the screams. you see the skin here. this attack reportedly happened monday at a school in northern syria. as u.n. inspectors arrived in the capital city of damascus. opposition groups are claiming government forces unleashed the toxic gas on civilians. to talk us through this absolutely horrendous video, we have our senior international correspondent, arwa damon. she is standing by with that. first i want to fwo to you, jill dougherty, our foreign affairs correspondent. because we have this intel report. we heard from the secretary of state this hour. i want you to just walk us through the new nuggets, the new
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details that we've now learned about the august 21 attack. >> reporter: you'd have to say the numbers, you're right, 1,429 killed including at least, the secretary said, 426 children. i was in that room when he was making this announcement, by the way. when he referred to the children, you could actually hear his voice quiver a little bit. then he outlined what they say is compelling evidence that this attack was planned. that the troops on the side of bashar al assad prepared themselves for a chemical attack by using gas masks. that after it was -- that it was very large. at least i believe he said 11 sites that they hit. and when it was over, worried that this would become well known very quickly because it hit the social media very fast, they began -- the syrian side began to shell that area. the u.s. would allege to destroy the evidence. so that was really -- i'd have
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to say the intelligence part of it. but there was a lot, brooke, that the secretary was making in terms of a case that the united states has to do something and not doing something, he argues, is also a risk. >> yeah. he was talking -- specifically he said people are tired of war. i am tired of war. that's no excuse. he was talking about, you know, history and leaders who have remained silent. i thought it was interesting, too, jill, he said the primary question is no longer what do we know. but it's what are we in the world going to do about it. >> reporter: right. and he is not saying precisely what the u.s. will do. but you know that they have been really drumming up as much support as they can. even rhetorical support to condemn this. because we know that british are not going to go along with it. the french, if there were some type of military action, say that they would. another thing that he was saying, i think it's an important point, brooke, is he was saying, look, people -- dictators around the world, other countries are watching
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what's happening. and he specifically mentioned iran, hezbollah and north korea. and he said they will draw their own conclusions if the united states does not do something. so that's another part of the rationale that they're trying to put together and put forward for taking some type of action. >> jill dougherty, thank you. as we mentioned, that second alleged chemical attack, we showed you the pictures. arwa damon, let me just bring you in. because as we look at these pictures, and really there are no words. there are no words to describe what we're looking at. tell me what you know about this attack. a purported attack five days after the august 21 attack in which we heard john kerry detailing. >> reporter: and, brooke, how many times have we said that images coming out of syria are just so difficult to look at. here we have yet another case of that. this attack happening on august 26th, according to the local court nation committees. at least seven people were
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killed. tens more wounded. we do not know, have no independent verifying what, in fact, caused these injuries. we do see in the videos up loaded to youtube by activists the survivors. many of them have huge burns covering their body. doctors trying to treat them with creams. and no other visible external injury. one survivor, a student in her teens, was describing in one of these videos how she was sitting in math class. they heard a strike, seeming to hit a building next door. they run outside. teachers decide to rush everyone back into the building. that's when this one eyewitness says she didn't hear anything. but all of a sudden she felt a burning sensation. she says she was burning, her friends were burning. people were frantically trying to rub sand to try to stop that incredibly painful burning.
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in the images, you hear some of the survivors, these teens, on the ground imploring the doctors to just stop the pain. stop the burning. it is exactly this type of violence, which is why for so long, so many have been calling for some sort of international intervention. to end the suffering of the syrian people, brooke. >> arwa damon, thank you. we heard from the secretary of state, not only just the victims, but the nurses, the doctors, the medics, they are victims here as well. we heard from john kerry laying out america's case. we will spend this hour analyzing it piece by piece by piece. beginning with this. syria now is staring down the barrel of five navy warships. yesterday it was four. now five in the eastern mediterranean. plus, the u.s. is believed to have some submarines out there as well. all of those vessels can carry out cruise missiles able to strike targets more than 1,000 miles away with pinpoint
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accuracy. general james "spider" marks joins me now from washington. he is a cnn military analyst. bob baer, cnn national security analyst, formerly of the cia. gentlemen, welcome. general marks, beginning with you here, tactically speaking, talk to me about these missiles. how exactly do they work and how can they be so accurate? >> well, brooke, these things are incredibly accurate. out to what we call ten digit level of granularity. that means it'll pass through a pane in a window, specified pane in a window and not the lower pane in the window. it will hit the target that it's intended to hit. these things do not miss. the challenge is, and this is where bob's experience is so important, is that we have not had boots on the ground in the form of our own human intelligence assets that are doing some very good reconnaissance and surveillance on those targets.
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they are fixed facilities. and within those fixed facilities, we have to assume that what's inside, if it's valuable, it's been removed. and very sadly, and probably not unexpectedly, assad may be moving women and children into those sites. so this could be a very, very difficult task that the united states -- it will be a very difficult task that the united states is taking on. but cruise missiles will do the business that they're intended to do. >> bob, i want you to also respond to what the general was talking about. also, as we hear the administration talking strictly -- i'm reading today. see the word limited strikes. that's at least what they're saying. do you see any chance at all that they may actually take a shot at bashar assad himself? >> well, this is the problem. i just talked to damascus today. some people in the regime. and this regime is panicking. and they've made it very clear that if any of these strikes like regime change, if they hit,
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for instance, the fourth division, the president's brother's division, bashar al assad will act irrationally. and that could be anything you could imagine. from attacking neighboring countries to using more gas. i don't know what that means. but people in damascus close to the president are moving their families out. they don't know what's going to happen next. >> there has been no criticism that a limited two-day strike would, you know, really just be a big wrist slap and not enough. do you agree with that or do you think that limited strikes would do the job so far, not interrupt any kind of ground war, send a message that so terribly needs sending? >> well, you know, i'm not sure what to do about syria. i don't disagree with the president, necessarily. we have to do something. it is getting out of hand. we're about two years too late doing something. because when you use gas against civilian population, anything is possible. but, on the other hand, you have an embattled minority, the
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alawites, they think their survival is at stake. and they will do stupid things. number two is i'm hearing whether, you know, the army may be disintegrating, but in fact these chemical attacks may have been carried out on the orders of lower level officers who are -- are -- i just don't know. these are people in the regime who can't tell me. they assure me that bashar didn't -- i don't necessarily believe them, didn't order this. if the army is disintegrating, that's even worse with these chemical weapons. >> spider marks, over the past couple days i've also seen stories about something called agent defeat bombs. do you know about this? essentially te si lly designed incinerate chemical weapons? do we have a weapon like this and does it work? >> we do. thermobaric bombs. i'm not privy to what the plan looks like. i'm not reading any classified cables. i can tell you that cruise missiles are not the weapon system to be used in that kind of attack to go after chemical stockpiles and to minimize the
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collateral damage and the downwind hazard that would inevitably ensue. but we do have the capability to destroy chemical stockpiles and to keep it localized. what i understand the administration doing right now is to go after assad's ability to deliver chemical weapons. not to strike the stockpiles. i certainly could be wrong at that. if that were the case, we'd have fixed wing aircraft over syrian air space. so the very first targets at the top of the target list needed to be assad's integrated air defense capability and his command and control so that they can't strike back. >> general marks, bob baer, thank you both. coming up next, i don't know kerry in this last hour, i mentioned the syrian regime has stockpiled mustard, sarin gas, vx. we will explain to you precisely what each of these chemical agents can do, as we've seen in some of these pictures. plus, any moment now president obama will be talking about syria at the white house. we are all over this.
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once again i just want to welcome our viewers in the united states and all around the world. i'm brooke baldwin. this is cnn's special coverage. you see live pictures of the white house because at any moment now president obama is expected to speak. previously scheduled meeting with two leaders of other nations. it is expected he will, of course, address the escalating situation that is syria. so we're waiting, we're watching for that. we'll bring that to you live. as we first heard sarin, we talk about the chemical weapons. the effects. today the united states government detailed other chemicals in syria's peppery and spoke of how much syria really has. >> well, we know that the assad regime has the largest chemical weapons program in the entire middle east. we know that the regime has used those weapons multiple times this year. and has used them on a smaller scale, but still it has used them against its own people.
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including not very far from where last wednesday's attack happened. >> more specifically, the u.s. government is saying this. let me quote. the syrian regime maintains a stockpile of numerous chemical agents including mustard, sarin and vx. joining me now, our senior medical correspondent, elizabeth cohen. just explain to us as we hear these different words, mustard, sarin, vx. these are all nerve gases. what do they do to a person? >> let's say sarin and vx first. sarin we've talked about -- we're talked about it lately. vx is very similar. they're both nerve gases. they are highly fatal. they can kill within minutes if you get a high enough dose. >> within minutes. >> within minutes. so it causes first your pupils go down to a little pinpoint. nausea, vomiting, paralysis and finally death. mustard gas is a little bit different. mustard gas usually is not fatal. but what it does is it causes blisters on your skin, your mouth, sort of all the way down into your lungs.
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and it can cause cancer later in life. it can also cause blindness. so it's a little bit different, but all of them, you know, extremely destructive and horrible. >> we heard from the secretary of state saying it is this chemical weapon stockpile, it's the largest in all of the middle east. we're talking, just to make sure everyone's straight, there is the -- there is this government assessment, this intel report on this attack on august 21st. we just heard from arwa damon talking about a separate attack this past monday. we saw these pictures. you can see, it's the flesh. it's the -- it looks like burns on the skin. what do you know about that? >> we showed those to some weapons experts. and they felt like it wasn't one of these gases. >> it was not. >> it was not a sarin or a vx. they said it looked more like a burn was caused by fire or caused by something incendiary. it's not clear what is causing it. but the experts we talked to felt that it wasn't one of these gas gases. >> okay. elizabeth cohen, thank you very much. coming up next, the uk parliament voted against action in syria. it was very loud, very fiery if
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you watched this play out for many, many hours yesterday. but will anything change in the wake of john kerry's huge announcement? we're beginning to go live to london, coming up next. plus, live at the white house. any minute now we will be hearing from the president. he will be speaking. specifically on syria. stay with me. you're watching cnn's special coverage. you have time to shop for car insurance today? yeah. i heard about progressive's "name your price" tool? i guess you can tell them how much you want to pay and it gives you a range of options to choose from. huh? i'm looking at it right now. oh, yeah? yeah. what's the... guest room situation? the "name your price" tool, making the world a little more progressive. congestion, for the smog. but there are a lot of people that do ride the bus. and now that the buses are running on natural gas,
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i'm brooke baldwin. this is cnn's special coverage of the crisis in syria. welcome to viewers in the u.s. and all around the world. we show you pictures of the white house as we can tell you right now the president of the united states is meeting with leaders from estonia and latvia. previously scheduled meeting. we are expecting comments as it pertains to syria. as soon as we see the president possibly even taking questions we will take that for you. just a short time ago, secretary of state john kerry in washington said 426 children were among the more than 1,400 people killed in a likely chemical attack by syria's government. secretary kerry was specific.
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he described the little victims' bodies wrapped up in white linen shrouds without a single drop of blood. he also spoke about america's role going forward. >> the united states government now knows that at least 1,429 syrians were killed in this attack, including at least 426 children. instead of being tucked safely in their beds at home, we saw rows of children lying side by side, sprawled on a hospital floor, all of them dead from assad's gas and surrounded by parents and grandparents who had suffered the same fate. this is the indiscriminate, inconceivable horror of chemical weapons. this is what assad did to his
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own people. we also know many disturbing details about the aftermath. we know that a senior regime official who knew about the attack confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime. reviewed the impact and actually was afraid that they would be discovered. we know this. and we know what they did next. i personally called the foreign minister of syria, and i said to him, if as you say your nation has nothing to hide, then let the united nations in immediately and give the inspectors the unfettered access so they have the opportunity to tell your story. instead, for four days, they shelled the neighborhood in order to destroy evidence. and it matters deeply to the credibility and the future
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interests of the united states of america and our allies. it matters because a lot of other countries whose policies challenge these international norms are watching. they are watching. they want to see whether the united states and our friends mean what we say. it is directly related to our credibility and whether countries still believe the united states when it says something. they are watching to see if syria can get away with it. because then maybe they, too, can put the world at greater risk. so let me be clear. we will continue talking to the congress, talking to our allies, and most importantly, talking to the american people. president obama will ensure that the united states of america makes our own decisions on our own timelines based on our values and our interests.
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now, we know that after a tedece of conflict, the american people are tired of war. believe me, i am, too. but fatigue does not absolve of us of our responsibility. >> that was the secretary of state speaking in the last hour. again, as we are waiting for president obama to speak from the white house, i want to take you to london. because lawmakers there have voted down a proposal for military action. it is a huge defeat for british prime minister david cameron. and our correspondent, atika shubert is live in london. take me back to yesterday. this fierily debate in parliament for hours and hours. what happened? >> it was a humiliating defeat. in the days leading up to this vote prime minister cameron seemed confident. he recalled parliament early. wanted a quick, decisive vote on military action. instead he put in a watered down
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motion when he realized the opposition was much stronger against this. then was even defeated by 272 for, 285 against any military action in syria. the bottom line is for many lawmakers, there was simply not enough evidence to justify a strike. but also a lot of questions about what any military action would do. what would it achieve? what happens next? and with those unanswered questions, lawmakers not just from the opposition labor party, but from within his own conservative party, voted against him. >> let me ask you this. just because i do think it's an important distinction. britain is a good friend of the united states. just because they voted down any kind of military action, no military campaign, that still wouldn't mean necessarily that the british wouldn't support the united states and their response to chemical weapons, correct? >> no. the brittaons still diplomaticay and politically supports the united states. but it will not be able to participate in any military strike as a result of this vote. >> atika shubert for us in
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london. thank you. coming up next, we will take you inside the mind of syria's leader, bashar al assad. including his mood swings. his temperament. and how apparently he's a fan of phil collins. we'll explain. we'll talk live with someone who's met with assad multiple times. do not miss that conversation. plus, once again, a reminder. we are waiting for the president of the united states to speak. specifically regarding the escalating situation in syria. you are watching cnn's special live coverage. stay with me. [ female announcer ] it's simple physics...
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we're awaiting comments from president obama in the oval office. he's meeting with the leaders of es tone dwra and latvia right now. i'm wolf blitzer in washington. we want to welcome our viewers here in the united states and around the world. the president has already spoken. there are tv cameras inside. a pool team is inside. they will be emerging from the oval office momentarily. we'll roll the tape.
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we'll let you know what the president has to say. but we're getting reports from our pool of reporters who are inside the oval office, and they're telling us the president has now just said once again, he has not yet made a final decision on military action against syrian targets as a result of the august 21st chemical attack on civilians in syria. an attack the obama administration directly blames the regime of bashar al assad in damascus for. this kind of offense is a challenge to the world, the president has just said. once again, we'll be getting a videotape of the president with those remarks momentarily. we'll roll it. we'll feed it. you'll hear what the president specifically has to say. important words, especially coming on the heels of what the secretary of state john kerry said just in the last couple of hours or so when he made it clear the u.s. would, in fact, respond even, even without formal united nations support. even without formal, formal votes from the nato allies or
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the arab league. the u.s. will not be deterred. that is what the secretary of state basically said. exactly when the u.s. might launch tomahawk cruise missiles or air strikes against various targets in syria designed to send a message to the bashar al assad regime that these kinds of chemical attacks will not be tolerated, that remains up in the air. although my own sense is based on what we heard from the secretary of state, it will be a lot sooner than it will be later. gloria borger has been watching all of this. fwl gloria, as we await the videotape of the president in the oval office, let's discuss what's going on. david lesh, professor of middle east history from trinity university is also standing by. gloria, first to you. these are critical hours right now. the president has to make a major decision. >> yeah. and i don't think the secretary of state john kerry could have been any more clear than he was. i mean, he said, wolf, that the u.n. investigators cannot tell us anything we don't already know about the use of chemical
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weapons there. he made the case to the american people, we know you're tired of war, but he said fatigue does not absolve of us of our responsibility. he said, whatever decision we make in syria, it will have no resemblance to iraq, afghanistan or libya. no boots on the ground. not open ended. we want no responsibility for a civil war under way. so i think he was outlining to the american people the limits of this military intervention. if no formal decision has been made, the president may well be deciding what option to use that has been laid out before him. but it sure seems to me, listening to the secretary of state, that the united states is poised to do something in syria. >> yeah. i wouldn't be surprised if it happens over this weekend. but we will soon learn, obviously, what's going on. we're getting another pool report from inside the oval office. the videotape will be coming out soon. the president saying he and his
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team are looking at a wide range of options. once again, reiterating what we just heard from the secretary of state. no boots on the ground. no long-term commitment. this will be a limited act if, in fact, it takes place, the president in the oval office right now with the leaders of e spok estonia and latvia. david lesh, you've been to syria. you've met with bashar al assad. how is he likely to react to what is clearly going to be a limited u.s. military strike? >> well, he's thinking about two things right now. first, in the immediate sense, is getting things out of the way where they think the u.s. is going to strike. secondly, how do we respond? i don't think he'll do so in a meaningful fashion. there's enough evidence accumulated over the last five, six years when there were numerous israeli strikes, when there were u.s. military incursions across the border from iraq. the syrian regime did not react in any sort of dramatic fashion
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at all. or doing anything, quite frankly. and so he's thinking right now, how do i turn this into our advantage? how do i fit the attack into the narrative they've uttered from the very beginning, that the uprising was the result of foreign conspiracies perpetrated by their foreign enemies. how can i seem to be the victim of the american/israeli project that brought him such street credibility in the past? >> so basically you don't necessarily anticipate that he would retaliate directly for what would be a limited punishing u.s. cruise missile strike or air strike? he wouldn't encourage his hezbollah allies in lebanon, for example, to launch rockets or missiles against northern israel, the iranians wouldn't undertake some sort of cyber attack in retaliation? because those are some of the fears i've heard from u.s. milita military personnel. >> cyber attacks are a possibility. the syrian electronic army has already shown a capability of
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carrying those things out. any sort of military strike by syria or hezbollah, i don't see it. their hands are full right now. you know, they don't have the resources to escalate this any more than it already is because it's already clear that it's going to be a limited strike. and it won't really make much of a difference on the battlefield on the ground in syria. >> you know, one thing that's been -- if you listen to the secretary of state, if you read the declassified intelligence assessment, it never says specifically that bashar al assad personally gave the order to use chemical weapons. it does talk about some conversations that the u.s. picked up with intelligence means between high ranking syrian officials, unnamed at least in the unclassified version and commanders on the ground. but based on your knowledge of syria, your knowledge of the role that bashar al assad plays, would he directly have to give an order along these lines to kill 1,000 civilians, if you will, if not a whole lot more? >> well, if -- if the syrian
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regime did, in fact, do this, i find it inconceivable that bashar al assad didn't know about it or at least direct it. the only thing -- the only excuse that they might be able to give at this point, perhaps, is that it was a much larger attack than was authorized or it had a much more devastating effect than was authorized. but they're in survival mode. so i think they very much look at this as pulling out all the stops. and the end justifies the means. >> one of the things that a lot of officials have been at least expressing concern to me about is that any continue ed delay, e attack that has been alleged august 21st, it's now, what, nine days later, and the syrian military, they're getting ready for some sort of attack. they're moving equipment around, troops around to try to make it potentially less punishing for the regime. they have pretty sophisticated capabilities in disbursing some of their equipment, troops, some
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of their command and control. is that right? >> yeah. i think so. i mean, i think this is the most announced military attack in history or let's give the administration the benefit of the doubt in that, you know, this is all somewhat intended. because the administration really does not want to see the precipitous fall of the regime. this is why it's a limited strike. because if the regime collapses, syria will collapse. and you'll have this free for all in the aftermath of this. a very chaotic situation where this mismatched and fragmented opposition group, many undesirables from the u.s. point of view, will be fighting for power. >> one of the lines, i'm going to just read it to you, professor, in this declassified u.s. government intelligence assessment. it says, we intercepted communications involving a senior syrian official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on august 21st and was concerned with the u.n. inspectors obtaining evidence. how likely is that to be
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convincing to people in the middle east, to people in syria? >> not very convincing at all. as we all know, the u.s. credibility on such intelligence issues is not very high based on what happened in iraq. so i suspect that many people in the middle east who -- who very much believe that the united states cooks up situations well beyond our actual ability to do so is cooking this up as well. >> let me bring gloria borger into this conversation. gloria, the audience that the president has, like the secretary of state, is a domestic audience. the american people. obviously congress, which is in recess right now, will be in recess for another week or ten days or so, but internationally the president is trying to build a coalition. so far over the past nine days, not much of a coalition has been built. >> no. not much of a coalition at all, wolf. particularly the disappointment over great britain. look, i think the president and the administration have a difficult job.
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and you saw john kerry try and do that today. to the point of whether you can establish the chain of custody tre directly to assad, there was a conference call that senior administration officials had with reporters that i just got off the phone. that question was asked, wolf. and the answer was that assad is the decision maker. he is ultimately in charge of the deployment of these chemical weapons. the overall program is firmly under his control. then they have to make the leap, wolf, and tell the american public while they want to punish him for the use of these chemical weapons, why they don't want to decapitate him. why they don't want to take him out of power. because what would be left would be a civil war that then we would have to get involved in, which we do not want to do. and, by the way, we're not sure that the rebels aren't full of al qaeda. so it's a very nuanced argument here. the administration has to make. i'm not sure they've made it yet to the satisfaction of the american public.
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if you look at the polls, the public is very weary of war and wary of this. but they're starting to make their case. >> we're getting another pool report from a reporter inside the oval office. once again, we're awaiting the president of the united states, the videotape should be coming out of the oval office momentarily. we'll play it for you. the president has been meeting with the leaders of estonia and latvia. also speaking out to the pool, the media inside the oval office about the situation in syria. one pool reporter telling us that the president said that a limited, narrow act, referring to a military act, is under consideration. the president saying, we're not considering any open-ended commitment. we're not considering any boots on the ground approach. he emphasized, according to this pool report, i have not made any decisions about what actions the united states will take. we have consulted with allies, the president said. we have consulted with congress. nick peyton walsh is joining us
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from the withdrew nited nations right now. nick, those u.n. weapons inspectors, they're a bit -- i don't know if they've left yet or they're about to leave. but they're heading back to new york to brief the u.n. secretary general ban ki-moon on what they found out when they went to this area outside of damascus as far as this chemical attack was concerned. but you heard the secretary of state say they're just going to confirm that there was a chemical attack. they're not going to tell us who did it. >> reporter: absolutely. that has always been a mandate just to assess whether chemical weapons were used. i thipg as you've already heard john kerry there no doubt in washington that the regime did it. so in many ways, the results we expect to be seeing in the next 48 hours are frankly inconsequential for, it seems, the u.s. government's opinion on this. but they will have a huge impact, i would imagine, on world opinion, too. certainly if you have russia and china here always wanting to wield their veto, mostly in syria's favor here. we have a complex few days ahead of us.
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it's possible they'll be in new york by late tonight. coming back from damascus this morning. some of the team will remain, it seems, until tomorrow morning. that will be. >> reporter: late friday night here new york time. then the briefings will start. she will brief lban ki-moon, th u.n. secretary general here in new york tomorrow. then they have to start compiling their report. another leader of the inspector team is actually going, instead, to europe to supervise the samples being taken, that were taken from the ground inside syria. those samples being taken to laboratories of countries that are not in the permanent five on the security council. so considered objective for testing to occur. when those results are through, and that could take a week plus, when they're through, a report will then be compiled. and that will be the weapons inspectors report to the secretary general. what we could see tomorrow, ban ki-moon said once he heard from
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the inspectors, is some information coming from angela cane by ban ki-moon to the security council member. that's a possibility. always the possibility of more diplomatic maneuvering here because russia and china are very keen -- >> hold on a second. hold on. here is the president with the leaders of estonia and latvia. >> well, obviously i'm very grateful to have my fellow presidents here. as well as the vice president. before i begin, i want to say a few words about the situation with syria. as you've seen, today we've released our unclassified assessment detailing the high confidence that the syrian regime carried out a chemical weapons attack that killed well over 1,000 people, including hundreds of children. this follows the horrific images that shocked us all. this kind of attack is a challenge to the world. we cannot accept a world where
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women and children and innocent civilians are gassed on a terrible scale. this kind of attack threatens our national security interests by violating well established international norms against the use of chemical weapons. by further threatening friends and allies of ours in the region like israel and turkey and jordan. and it increases the risk that chemical weapons will be used in the future and fall into the hands of terrorists who might use them against us. so i have said before, and i meant what i said, that the world has an obligation to make sure that we maintain the norm against the use of chemical weapons. now, i have not made a final decision about various actions that might be taken to help enforce that norm.
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but, as i've already said, i have had my military and our team look at a wide range of options. we have consulted with allies, we've consulted with congress, we've been in conversations with all the interested parties. and in no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground, that would involve a long-term campaign. but we are looking at the possibility of a limited, narrow act that would help make sure that not only syria, but others around the world, understand that the international community cares about maintaining this chemical weapons ban and norm. fw again, i repeat, we're not
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considering any open-ended commitment. we're not considering any boots on the ground approach. what we will do is consider options that meet the narrow concern around chemical weapons. understanding that there's not going to be a solely military solution to the understand lying conflict and tragedy that's taking place in syria. and i will continue to consult closely with congress, in addition to the release of the unclassified document. we are providing a classified briefing to congressional staff today. and will offer that same classified briefing to members of congress. as well as our international partners. and i will continue to provide updates to the american people as we get more information. with that, i want to welcome presidents ilvis, president
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grabos skicha and president berzich to the white house. these countries that they represent all share very deep ties. >> all right. there you heard the president of the united states making it clear he is actively considering some sort of limited military option. he's got his military commanders getting him varied options, but repeating twice, no boots on the ground. no long-term involvement militarily in this civil war in syria. but clearly indicating as secretary of state john kerry did earlier in the day that the u.s. will, in fact, do something. and in my assessment, will do it fairly soon. president is supposed to leave in the middle of next week for the g-20 summit in russia. my suspicion is he wants to get this done with before he leaves for this g-20 summit in russia. russia being a key ally of syria. and he'll probably run into president putin in st. petersburg, russia, while he's there. so they presumably want to send
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this message to the syrian regime sooner rather than later. let's bring in senior white house correspondent jim kay costko -- acosta. you were inside that room. you were one of the pool reporters when president spoke. >> that's right, wolf. you really did touch on the highlights there. the president saying he hasn't made a decision yet about military action, about syria. that it will be a limited, narrow operation. that there will be no boots on the ground if and when he makes that decision to strike. but he left really no -- you know, no mystery as to what his decision is going to be. he said syria's use of chemical weapons against their people were what he called a challenge to the world. and he said it's a challenge that he's going to meet. he was asked by a reporter after he wrapped up his remarks and heard from the battltic leaders there as well as vice president joe biden in the world about this notion of taking ye ining l action. why is he moving forward without partners around the world and without the authorization of congress.
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to go through those two things separately, the president said he was hoping to have more international cooperation. he was hoping to have the united nations go along with hip and make a strong stand against syria. but the president hinting as we all know that he's been stymied by russia throughout all of this. they have a permanent seat on the security council at the united nations. and the president alluded to that. as for congressional authorization, he said that he continues to consult with congress and that he's been trying to do that throughout this entire process. but you do get the sense, wolf, you talked about the timetable. before he goes to the g-20 summit that's happening next week, if he were really hell bent on getting authorization from congress he would have to probably wait for several days and he would not be able to go to that g-20 summit. so it is more likely than not, wolf, based on his comments that he's going to be acting soon. but no final decision yet from the president. >> that's what he keeps saying. no final decision, until there is a final decision, could be a
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few hours from now, could be a few days from now, certainly could be a few weeks from now. my suspicion is it will be sooner rather than later. once the president gives that order as commander in chief, the pentagon, u.s. military they will be in place therefore. eventually there will be five destroyers in the mediterranean with submarines. gloria borger is with us. gloria, there's no indication congress wants to come back from its recess. there's no indication the president is telling them to come back. they're not suppose to be back, what, till september 9th or so. that would be the earliest that they could take up some sort of resolution. >> right. and it's clear that the white house isn't asking them back because they're not sure if they ask them back and if congress called for a vote that they would actually win that vote. so i think that they're probably just as pleased to have congress out of town to brief the people they need to brief on a secure basis. and the rest on a declassified basis. you know, wolf, what strikes me
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about this president is what a reluctant warrior he is. you know, if you look at his history, this is somebody who came to political prominence as an anti-war activist. who called for the use of the war powers act to reauthorize the war in iraq, if you'll recall. and here he is today, sitting, talking to the american public from the white house and saying, you know, i haven't made a decision. but i need to tell you that it is a threat to our national security when international norms are violated. and, however, he also felt the need to say to the american public, look, i've thought about this. i'm not rushing into this. no boots on the ground. something very narrow. we've got to show assad that these things are unacceptable. they are war crimes. but when you sit back and you think of barack obama and you think of this situation he is now in, not only doing this, but defending the use of drones,
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defending nsa surveillance, he must think at some times that he's looking through the looking glass, don't you think? >> yeah. if somebody would have said when he was running for the presidency back in 2007 and 2008 that he would authorize military force without congressional approval, without a united nations security council resolution, without a formal vote from the nato allies, without a formal vote from the arab league, he probably would have said, that's never going to happen. i'm an internationalist. i need this international coalition to go into a military situation like this. but right now we appear to be on the verge of the united states doing exactly that in an obama administration. gloria, hold on for a moment. christian amanpour, our chief international correspondent is joining the conversation. you hear what the secretary of state said a little while ago. now what the president says. the mystery is gone. the u.s. will do something. the only question is will it be in the next few hours or the
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next few days? >> indeed, i think this mystery was absolutely cleared up over the last several days. today the principals have made it even more clear. obviously you've been talking about the politics around this. but when it comes to the substance and the legality of it, there is no question, wolf. this is a violation of the highest standards of international law. chemical weapons or weapons of mass destruction. there tl is an international mandate to respond to that. there are internationals who have signed on to the 1925 convention that prohibits the use of chemical weapons, including syria. therefore, there is legal basis for going after him. just as there is for going after genocide. what if there'd been a nuclear attack somewhere? one has to respond to these kinds of things. and i think everybody has been massively surprised by the british vote in parliament, given that it was after the first world war when thousands of british soldiers were gassed to death during the first world war. that britain and france and others were amongst the first to come up with this 1925
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convention, protocol against chemical weapons. i think there is no question that this has to be met. no matter the politics around it. >> so why, christiane, has the obama administration so far over these past nine days since the august 21st attack that killed more than 1,400 people according to the u.s. and killed more than 400 children, why has the obama administration been so far unsuccessful in putting together the international legal authority, united nations security council resolution, or even amongst the allies, the nato allies in going forward with a specific targeted, limited military strike? >> well, look, wolf. everybody is being dragged into this kicking and screaming. as you've just been discussing with gloria, the president does not want to go to a military attack. he is the president who's come in to end wars. look at drawing down forces, drawing out forces from iraq. drawing down and traui ingdrawi forces from afghanistan. everyone has a major case of
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iraqitis. i would say that is extremely significant here in england. who knew that here in great britain, they had a worst case of iraq fear than they do in the united states. it was a shock to see this vote in the uk parliament. it is the first time in, perhaps, 30 years that the uk will not be shoulder to shoulder with the united states in a military offensive. limited or otherwise. and this is is a really big t l deal. now we're going to see france is standing very firm still, will back the united states. iraq is a big problem for the -- for the west and for the u.n. but also in terms of u.n. consensus, it was never going to happen. the russians and the chinese have made it clear for the last 2 1/2 years of this war, even before the idea of chemical weapons, that they were not going to agree to any kind of sanction of assad. and this has simply emboldened assad over the last 2 1/2 years. that he's been able to
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gradually -- if you look at every attempt he's made to gradually ratchet up what he's done. using fixed wing aircraft. >> hold on, christiane. the president is about to answer a reporter's question. >> -- are still in the planning processes. and obviously consultations with congress as well as the international community are very important. and, you know, my preference obviously would have been that the international community already acted forcefully. but what we have seen so far, at least, is a incapacity at this point for the security council to move forward in the face of a clear violation of international norms. and, you know, i recognize that all of us here in the united states, in great britain, in
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many parts of the world, there's a certain weariness given afghanistan. there's a certain suspicion of any military action post-iraq. and i very much appreciate that. on the other hand, it's important for us to recognize that when over 1,000 people are killed, including hundreds of innocent children, through the use of a weapon that 98% or 99% of humanity says should not be used, even in war, and there is no action, then we're sending a signal that that international norm doesn't mean much. and that is a danger to our national security. and obviously if and when we make a decision to respond,
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there are a whole host of considerations that i have to take into account, too. in terms of how effective it is. and given the kinds of options that we're looking at that would be very limited, and would not involve a long-term commitment or a major operation. you know, we are confident that we can provide congress all the information and get all the input that they need. and we're very mindful of that. and we can have serious conversations with our allies and our friends around the world about this. but ultimately we don't want the world to be paralyzed. and, frankly, you know, part of the challenge that we end up with here is that a lot of people think something should be done, but nobody wants to do it. and that's not an unusual situation. and that's part of what allows
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over time the erosion of these kinds of international prohibitions, unless somebody says, no. when the world says we're not fwoi going to use chemical weapons, we mean it. and it would be tempting to leave it to others to do it. and i think i've shown consistently and said consistently my strong preference for multilateral action whenever possible. but it is not in the national security interest of the united states to ignore clear violations of these kinds of international norms. and the reason is because of a whole host of international norms out there that are very important to us. you know, we have currently rules in place dealing with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. we have international norms that have been violated by certain countries and the united nations
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has put sanctions in place, but if there's a sense that over time nobody's willing actually to enforce them, then people don't take them seriously. so, you know, i am very clear that the world generally is war weary. certainly the united states has gone through over a decade of war. t the american people understandably want us to be focus on the business of rebuilding our economy here and putting people back to work. and i assure you, nobody ends up being more war weary than me. but what i also believe is that part of our obligation as a leader in the world is making sure that when you have a regime that is willing to use weapons
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that are prohibited by international norms on their own people, including children, that they're held to account. >> mr. president -- >> thank you. thank you. >> all right. that's the end of the question and answer session with the president flanked by the presidents of estonia and latvia over at the white house. the president's response to that question. you heard him once again say any u.s. military strike, any u.s. military action in syria would be in his words very limited, not a major operation, no boots on the ground. basically saying it would be very quick. let's bring back christiane amanpour. peter berg, international security analyst is joining us as well. that kind of -- those kind of words, christiane, they play well here in the united states. but if they're watching and we're being seen live around the world right now including in damascus, if bashar al assad and his top leaders are listening to the president of the united states basically telegraph to them, get ready for some sort of
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military action, but it will be very limited, not a major operation, no boots on the ground, what does that say to the syrian regime? >> well, it's definitely a mixed message. it will be received in a mixed way. frankly, this has been the message that has been telegraphed over the last several days of this discussion and public statement. that it would be limited. that it would only go after certain targets. that it wouldn't last very long. that it's not a war like iraq or afghanistan. so we have heard and we even had you speaking to the professor who'd been speaking to contacts inside syria, that some ministries may be, you know, drawing down. maybe trying to get rid of certain paperwork. maybe moving certain artillery around and getting ready for some kind of limited strike. i remember being in bosnia when nato started to strike finally after the massacre. the genocide. i remember the bosnian serbs trying to move things around and decoy and sort of catch nato off guard. it didn't work. here's the thing. what the president said is
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absolutely crucial. if you don't do this, it's going to give a signal to go on and on using these prohibited weapons. prohibited under international law. and to be very frank, they have been used many times in syria in this conflict. not just this last one. but in april and before that. either 10 or 30 times, depending on which intelligence you're looking to. that is because no action was taken to stop it then. so they keep using it. so this is a very significant issue. i think in terms of retaliation, that's something that one should consider. i've talked to the head of the -- former head of israeli military intelligence. and he believes that since assad is being virtually assured that this is not about toppling him, that there won't be a retaliation. the minute that he thinks it's about toppling him, then who knows what might happen. >> peter bergen, here's one explanation i've come up with. i want to run it by you, see what you think. why the u.s. is is making this case that this will be extremely
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limited, very short, not designed for reyegime change, n designed for the u.s. to get involved in this civil war. if you take a look at the opposition, the rebels in syria right now, who will be most thrilled by this u.s. military action, presumably, trying to go after some of bashar al assad's troops, that would be the opposition including some elements aligned with al qaeda, like el nusra which seems to be on the up tick right now amongst that opposition. and the u.s. certainly doesn't want to elevate them. >> that's correct, wolf. by almost any standard the most effective fighting force in syria now is al qaeda. they call themselves something different. but they are effectively an arm of al qaeda. they are regarded as uncorrupt by the population. they don't loot. a lot of them have battlefield experience in other conflicts such as the iraq war. they're well organized. they're prepared to die in the struggle. and they're doing well on the battlefield.
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so the administration is in an interesting quantitiry. because in the long term they'd like to see assad go. in the short term they certainly don't want to see al qaeda and groups like it take over syria. at the same time they want to punish assad as chrisman amanpour said for this use. not just one time, it's a multiple use of chemical weapons. they want to make it more than a slap on the wrist. it's calibrating an attack that falls somewhere in between those goals of getting rid of him in the long term, and being more like a slap on the wrist. the fact we're talking about this publicly, we live in an open society. you know, that's one of the prices of living in an open society. that there is a public discussion and a public debate about what we're planning to do. president obama has to bring along the american public. hopefully as much of congress as is feasible. >> christiane, let me bring you back into this conversation as well. i want to get your thoughts on
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this and peter as well. it's an extremely sensitive issue i'm about to raise. the president and the secretary of state as well as this document i have, this unclassified intelligence assessment of what happened on august 21st in syria outside of damascus, the u.s. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack including at least 426 children. but then it goes on a few pages, christiane. and it then says this. in the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack. if in those three days before the attack the u.s. was collecting all this information about a looming attack involving chemical weapons, why weren't those people notified, warned, told to leave, given gas masks, issues along those lines? >> look, it's hard to tell.
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i yus donjust don't know why. it's possible they were receiving that not in realtime. i just don't know. look, wolf, we've been discussing there's endless public debates about was there a chemical attack? who did it? it's clear. it's clear as day. and it is a violation of the most serious international law. and that is about weapons of mass destruction. this requires, under law, a response. and because of all the politics over iraq, because of all sorts of other things, it is very difficult to go ahead in a unified manner. but i remember back in kosovo, although this is a different issue, i remember back in kosovo when serbia was attacking the population there, united states has to go with nato allies around the united nations and do what it had to do. you saw president clinton went around all his allies, nato or the u.n., after osama bin laden
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blew up those east africa embassies in 1998. there's been very limited alliances hitting saddam hussein over various years during the late '90s. there is precedent to this. >> jimmy carter and his carter center in atlanta, peter, they put out a statement earlier today before the secretary of state's comments, before the intelligence assessment release, certainly before the president just spoke at the white house. among other things, the jimmy carter center said this. a punitive military response without a u.n. security councilman date or broad support from nato and the arab league would be illegal under international law and unlikely to alter the course of the war. what do you make of that, peter? >> you know, something can be illegal under international law but still be a le wrgitimate usf force which may seem like a paradox. certainly there is going to be no u.n. resolution. there will not be it looks like a nato kind of collective
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security article 5 type thing where, you know, where you can make the argument one of the allies has been attacked. take three off the list of international bodies that might authorize it. we're not seeing that. that said, you know, it -- i think there are obviously lawyers at the white house working right now at creating a document that kind of gives this some kind of legitimacy in international law. there will, of course, probably be at least one major european ally, france. but, nonetheless, from an international law perspective in terms of what we've seen previously, this is going to be an operation without a great deal of international legal cover. which is not to say, of course, that international role doesn't evolve over time. that's an argument i think you'll hear the white house making. >> ban ki-moon, u.n. secretary general, has repeatedly said over the past few days, including as recently through a
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spokesman today, that they are urging the u.s. not to launch any military strikes. in the words of his spokesman today, give peace a chance. back to the white house. jim acosta is getting more information on what's going on. these are critical moments right now. i assume the president is also on the phone with some world leaders. hasn't gotten a whole lot of support militarily for a u.s. operation. although he is getting some rhetorical support. >> reporter: that's right, wolf. and it's fwood that you mention that. because we stopped playing that tape just as the rest of the reporters in the room tried to ask other questions. i tried to ask a question about whether he's concerned about leaving bashar al assad in power and whether he believes he can sufficiently degrade that country's chemical weapons capabilities. but another reporter who was right next to me asked the president about the president of france. mr. hollande and his words of support for the president. and whether that will translate into some sort of military cooperation. the president actually did very,
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very briefly respond to that question and said that he had seen the french president's statement. but then nothing more than that. that's sort of a wait and see. we'll have to wait and see about that one. wolf, one thing we can also tell you is that there seems to be a process that is under way. you heard the president do a couple of interviews, one with cnn, one with pbs. then earlier this week, officials here at the white house were saying we're going to brief members of congress on this intelligence assessment. then it's going to be released to the public. they were indicating there was going to be some sort of statement from the president. and then some kind of decision on whether he is going to take a course of action against syria. now, you've had a lot of people talking about this president dithering. how he's the reluctant warrior, the unhappy warrior. but this process, this program that's been in place all week long that's been laid out by administration officials, perhaps it's been frustrating at times, members of congress and people around the world, he has been sort of taking that step by step. obviously he did not anticipate what was going to happen over in great britain. but as you heard the president
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say, as much as he would like to leave it to the rest of the world to deal with this, he feels like that's not a thing -- that's not a decision that can be made. at least not by this president. >> this president and his secretary of state are making it clear even if they don't get that kind of robust international support, they're prepared to move the united states by itself to punish the regime of the syrian president, bashar al assad. to send a message to him, to iran, to others that if you engage in this kind of illegal chemical warfare, you will pay a price. stand by. everyone stand by. we have much more coverage of the breaking news, the crisis in syria, coming up. we're also just getting in some new video of another alleged chemical attack. this is very dramatic. >> reporter: chivery chilling video. we'll share it with you when we come back.
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welcome back to the breaking news here in washington. president obama making it clear as his secretary of state john kerry did over the past few years, the u.s. right now is poised potentially to launch a military strike or strikes against various targets in syria as a result of syria's alleged chemical weapons attack against syrian civilians on august 21st. that attack, the u.s. says, now killed more than 1,400 civilians, more than 400 of whom children. very dramatic comments. we just heard from the president a little while ago. earlier from the secretary of state. at the same time the u.s. has
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released a detailed, declassified intelligence estimate on what they say is a deliberate bashar al assad regime attack, deliberate attack on civilians outside of damascus. the syrian capital. an attack resulting from frustration because the regular syrian military using regular conventional weapons couldn't get the job done. we're also learning of another, a second alleged chemical attack in syria this week. we have some horrifying pictures. if you need to turn away, do so now. i really want to stress this. the video you are about to see is extremely difficult to watch. [ speaking in foreign language ]
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>> the attack reportedly happened monday at a school in northern syria as u.n. inspectors arrived in damascus. opposition groups are claiming government forces, forces loyal to bashar al assad, unleashed the toxic gas on civilians. seven people were killed. dozens and dozens were injured. to talk us through this horrifying new video, we have our senior international correspondent, arwa damon. she's standing by in beirut. arwa, it's really hard to look at these pictures. almost looks like napalm for those of us who remember the use of napalm during vietnam. what's your latest information? >> reporter: well, according to the activists that uploaded those videos to youtube, and they are incredibly difficult to watch, wolf. i mean, how many times have we
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said that when it comes to syria? but according to them, these victims, and this is what we see in these images, there were burns covering large portions of their bodies. you see the doctors really struggling to treat them. they're putting cream on them. and there are no other visibility, external wounds. at least not in the clips that we can see. that video, the child on the ground there, the doctors as far as what we can make out from what's being said, they're trying to get him to lie down and he's screaming, i can't, i can't. he's imploring them to stop the burning, to stop the pain. another survivor, also a girl, she said that she's 18 years old, describes how the attack happened. she said there was an initial strike outside of the school at a building next door. people ran outside. they could see planes hovering overhead. they then ran back inside. and she says that she did not hear any explosion. but suddenly she felt this burning sensation. that she says i was burning.
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my friends were burning. we were all burning. and we did not know what happened. a doctor, a woman who identifies herself as being a doctor on the scene, saying that she does believe that it was some sort of chemical attack, that it looked like it was napalm, perhaps some sort of incendiary weapon. we do not know at this stage. we cannot independently verify what took place. once again, wolf, coming out of syria, horrific images of yet another attack once again claiming civilian lives. really devastating the population there. but it's also, you know, in this whole debate that's going on about this u.s. potential missile strike that's happening, wolf, what's interesting in all of this is that a lot of opposition activists we've been talking to, a lot of the rebel fighters do say that because of the limited scale that the u.s. plans on employing in targeting just specific sites, they believe that it is going to do -- or that it's going to harm them more than it's going to
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harm the regime. they say the regime is going to continue to retaliate against the civilian population, wolf. >> just when you think it can't get much worse, it does get much worse. arwa, we're going to stay in close touch with you. arwa damon is in beirut for us. coming up, we'll have more on the breaking news including word that more u.s. warships are right now moving into the eastern mediterranean. they are armed with these cruise missiles. we're talking to cnn's military analyst, retired general james "spider" marks about what options the u.s. has right now if, still an if, not much of an if, but if president obama decides to launch a strike against syria. this is cnn's special coverage. the humble back seat. we believe it can be the most valuable real estate on earth. ♪ that's why we designed the subaru forester from the back seat forward. the intelligently designed, responsibly built,
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i'm brooke baldwin. you are watching cnn special coverage. welcoming all of your viewers, of course, in the united states and all around the world. you heard from the president this last hour.
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he made it clear he has not made a decision on what the u.s. will do as it pertains to syria. but he and his military team, they've been meeting. they've been looking at a wide range of options. secretary of state john kerry earlier laid out america's case for responding to syria's likely chemical weapons attack on its own people. more than 1,400 people killed according to this declassified report, this intel report, this evidence. we're going to go deeper into today's developments starting with this. syria now is staring down the barrel of five, five u.s. warships. yesterday it was four. today it is five in the eastern mediterranean. plus, the u.s. is believed to have submarines out there as well. all those vessels can carry cruise missiles able to strike targets more than 1,000 miles away with pinpoint paccuracy. retired general james "spider" marks joins me from washington. he is a cnn military analyst. general, let me just begin with
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some of the key phrases i heard from the president speaking at the white house this hour. he said, not considering any military action involving boots on the ground. not considering a long-term campaign. we are looking at a limited, narrow act. when you hear that, what does that entail? what could that accomplish militarily? >> well, the accomplishment in terms of a military objective would be, as the president indicated, would be very narrow, very limited, very precise. you'd want to think that it would fit within a larger tragic construct. kind of a picture of what this end state looks like. what secretary kerry did say is that the strikes, if and when they're approved, will do nothing and will not involve the united states in the ongoing civil war in syria. so what we're going to see in syria is more of what we have seen over the course of the last three years. but ideally, the president wants
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to be able to strike at assad's chemical weapons delivery capability so that those horrible images that we saw are eliminated. and they go away. so this is really a tactical engagement, brooke. and it's not as though -- again, as the president said, it's not part of a campaign. we are not going to war. we're going to try to punish a punitive expedition against assad and his chemical delivering capability. very narrow. >> i want to ask you about the targets. because we heard from secretary kerry laying out the fact that in syria they have the greatest amount of chemical weapons, a stockpile. biggest in all of the middle east. that said, i think there's an important difference. you said that the u.s. would potentially strike and target, perhaps, air force, perhaps the way in which they transfer these chemical weapons. not specifically the chemical weapons themselves. is that correct? >> that's exactly correct. however, it certainly remains an option for the united states to go after the inventories if, in fact, the inventories that we
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know about in fixed facilities, those chemical weapons are still there. we've already telegraphed to assad that the united states intends to do something, even if it acts alone. so i would have to assume that assad is probably disbursing all his capabilities. he might have already disbursed his aircraft to iran. it's not inconceivable that that's what he's done. his chemical weapons may be gone some place else. his delivery means could be under overpasses and hidden away in different locations. we have to assume assad is a thinking enemy and, in fact, is doing everything he can to avoid damage. i would think cruise missiles would go in first. go after his command and control and integrated air defense capabilities. we would then assess what the damage has been done. we would measure that damage. and if it's sufficiently degraded his integrated air defense, it's not inconceivable the united states would launch fixed wing aircraft with fuel
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air explosives or thermobaric capabilities. which are bombs. they don't come off of cruise missiles. they come off of fixed wings. to go after chemical weapon inventories. that would minimize the downwind hazard in terms of how those explosives are utilized. it's a bit pedantic. it can be done. >> these cruise missiles as you pointed out last hour are incredibly precise. general marks, thank you very much. coming up in our special cnn coverage here of the crisis in syria continues, will president obama confer with congress? will they debate if he wants to launch these limited surgical strikes against syria? and will he even need to speak with congress? we'll debate that. plus, you will hear from the u.s. secretary of state john kerry. he just made some powerful remarks, lying out the evidence the u.s. has against syria and this chemical weapons attack back on august 21st. this unclassified report we now have our hands on. you will hear more about that, next. [ tires screech ]
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welcome back to cnn's special coverage of this ongoing crisis in syria. i'm brooke baldwin. u.s. secretary of state john kerry says, yes, he is tired of war. yes, he knows, many americans are sick and tired of war as well. but that is not a reason to avoid action in syria. >> it matters because if we choose to live in a world where a thug and a murderer like
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bashar al assad can gas thousands of his own people with impuni impunity, even after the united states and our allies said no, and then the world tuz nothing about it, there will be no end to the test of our resolve. the american intelligence community has high confidence. high confidence. this is common sense. this is evidence. these are facts. so the primary question is really no longer, what do we know? the question is what do we, we collectively, what are we in the world going to do about it? we will continue talking to the congress. talking to our allies. and most importantly, talking to the american people. president obama will ensure that the united states of america makes our own decisions, on our own timelines, based on our
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values and our interests. >> let's go straight to washington to our chief congressional correspondent, dana bash for more on what members of congress -- i know it's quiet in some parts of washington because many members of congress are still away on recess. we know that they were briefed via teleconference in that unsecure line so it wasn't classified, per se, last night. they've been speaking, i'm sure, with the administration today. what are you hearing? >> reporter: that's exactly right. i think a lot of what is going on as we speak is box checking by the administration. making sure that they speak to the key committees. last night what happened was secretary kerry, hagel and others spoke to the chair apd ranking members as well as the leadership in both bodies of congress. right now maybe even as we speak, there is a series of calls going from the national security council to the actual rank and file members of some of those key committees. so they are effectively, for
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lack of a better way to say, giving them a little love which members of congress always want from any administration, but especially as we've heard very loudly from some of them on the eve of what looks like military strikes. whether or not there needs to be an authorizing resolution, that is debatable. but no matter what, no matter where these members of congress sit on their view of syria and in their party, almost all of them say that it is critical for the administration to consult with congress. and that's why you heard both the president and kerry, both former senators, by the way, say they get it, they understand it, that's why they're at least trying to, my words, not theirs, check that box. >> check the box. dana bash, thank you. i want to talk a little more about the political implications, of course, as it pertains to syria here at home, in the united states. i want to bring in cnn political commentator maria cardona, democratic strategist. as we hear from u.s. secretary
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of state john kerry and the proof and the numbers, the deaths that chemical weapons attack, more than 1,400 killed. of that, more than 400 children, here's my question to both of you. liz, i'll start with you. what about inaction? what if after all these days of buildup, the president, the administration, decides to hang tight and do nothing? liz, how would that -- how would that be responded to? >> certainly there are going to be some people who are going to knock him for inaction. and, frankly, for having built this up into such a big deal where action was expected. and then, you know, there will be people who say that he looks very weak and fluffed it at the end of it. my concern would be far less than and far more to do with what that is saying in terms of his message to the international community. and what impact that might have on diplomacy and relations going forward. >> which is what? what would that message be, do you think? >> i think ultimately one of the things that's very important
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when you're dealing with a diplomatic situation like this and the prospect of ending up going to war or doing surgical strikes or whatever it may be, people need to be very clear in what you are saying that you will do and under what conditions and setting expectations and adhering to them. otherwise you end up with everything being a jumble. there is no predictability. that's going to make it very hard to actually go in and get people to do what you actually want them to do. because their assumption is going to be that there may be a lot of crying wolf going on. i think that is probably the bigger concern here. >> sure. and i think the issue would be it's not just sending a message if the united states were not to do anything, it would send messages to other countries, ie, iran, bark and no bite. still, maria, the question stands. i hear people coming on and they say you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. but what the f the president does nothing? >> i think that would be one of the worst options of what is right now, brooke, a list of just bad options. you know, again, he said he has made no decision. but i can't imagine at this
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point with, like you said, all of the buildup, with all of the intelligence information that secretary kerry has said publicly, with everything that they are looking to do to frankly talk about why this is necessary, i can't imagine that at the end of the day, the administration is going to do nothing. from a personal standpoint, i don't think that would be politically savvy. i don't think it's acceptable from an international standpoint. but there's no question that these are all bad options. the majority of the american people don't want us to take any option -- don't want us to take any action there. but from a credibility standpoint, and, in fact, you know, everybody has talked about on this network how this is a flagrant act against the international community, the utmost going against international law, something has got to be done. >> right. the use of chemical weapons, atrocious. >> absolutely. >> and in violation. that said, you look at the pe
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pictures. we were watching british parliament yesterday. the fiery debate ultimately voting down any kind of military campaign when it comes to syria. as you watch this and you see that everyone's able still to come together for a day, and here in the u.s. there is calls -- you know, i talked to barbara lee yesterday, congresswoman of california, calling, one of these signing and writing letters the congress should debate this before the president, for lack of a better word, decides to push the button on this limited strike. liz, do you think that congress should handle this, or is this already the most announced military attack in history and the u.s. should just go? >> the issue isn't whether it's announced or not. the issue is legalities and whether we're actually complying with constitutional law and public law that's on the books. in my personal opinion, clearly if you're talking about a surgical strike, that does play differently in people's minds when they're looking at legalities. if you're talking about launching the iraq war or something like that.
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but at the end of the day i think most pop's conception, certainly based on what john kerry said earlier, i think his conception is that we are doing something that constitutes an act of war. and in view of that, in my personal view, i do think for both political and legal reasons, it is important to get congress to vote on this. ultimately, i'm sure that there are many members of congress that do not want to break up their vacations. i'm sure that there are political considerations that play into this on both sides. the obama administration is probably concerned that if they bring congress back and ask them to vote on this, they may not get a resounding vote of support that they really want. personally, i think they probably would get it through and it would be fine. you know, you probably also have certain republicans and certain people in leadership who don't necessarily want to be in a position where their members are put on a record -- on the record about this. depending on how it ultimately goes. that may be a political liability for them. but, you know, the constitution and public law are not put together with politicians' self-interest in mind.
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i think it's important they take a vote on this, not merely get consulted. >> maria? >> i think the important thing here is and what the law says is that the president has got to consult closely with congress. that's why you heard him and you heard secretary kerry underscore the fact that they are doing just that and they're going to continue to do just that. and, frankly -- >> but that is not what the constitution says. that is not what the constitution says. >> within 60 days congress has got to vote on this. if this happens, this will last nowhere near 60 days. it will be done. from a strategic standpoint, brooke, to your point about this being the most announced military strike ever, in my view, if the president is going to go, he should do it now. and then after that, if we assume that there's going to be additional action taken, let's remember, there are no boots on the ground. this is not going to be a long process of engagement. the way it was in iraq. if that changes, then he does have to come back, consult and
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have a vote with congress. >> maria cardona and liz mair, thank you both. coming up next, we will take you inside the mind of this leader in syria, including his mood swings and his temperament and how he might react to an american strike. hear from someone who has met with bashar al assad multiple times. [ tires screech ] [ beeping ] ♪ [ male announcer ] we don't just certify our pre-owned vehicles. we inspect, analyze and recondition each one, until it's nothing short of a genuine certified pre-owned... mercedes-benz for the next new owner. ♪ hurry in to your authorized mercedes-benz dealer for 1.99% financing during our certified pre-owned sales event through september 3rd.
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you are watching cnn's special coverage of the crisis in syria. here on cnn, will damascus retaliate? should the united states launch air strikes? my colleague wolf blitzer talked about that with bashar al assad's biographer. a man who has met him several times. >> i don't think he'll do so in a meani iningful fashion. there's enough evidence accumulated the last five, six years when there were numerous israeli strikes, u.s. military incursions across the border from iraq. the syrian regime did not react in any sort of dramatic fashion at all. or, you know, doing anything, quite frankly. and so he's thinking right now, how do i turn this into our advantage? how do i fit the attack into the narrative they've uttered from the very beginning, that the uprising was the result of foreign conspiracies.
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perpetrated by their foreign enemies. how can i seem to be the victim of the american/israeli project that brought him such street credibility in the past? >> and so basically, you don't necessarily anticipate that he would retaliate directly for what would be a limited punishing u.s. cruise missile strike or air strike? he wouldn't encourage his hezbollah allies in lebanon, for example, to launch rockets or missiles against northern israel? the iranians wouldn't undertake some sort of cyber attack in retaliation? because those are some of the fears i've heard from u.s. military personnel. >> cyber attacks are a possibility. they've already -- you know, the syrian electronic army has already shown a capability of carrying those things out. any sort of military strike by syria or hezbollah, i don't see it. their hands are full right now. >> that was biographer david lesch talking to wolf. also noting i talked to cnn analyst bob baer, former cia
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operative last hour. he told me today, he picked up the phone, had some contacts in damascus. he told me that they told him that the syrian regime is, his word, panicking. panicking at the prospect of strikes by the u.s. military. the u.s. lays out its case that the syrian government is using chemical weapons against its own people. this today as russia makes a resounding statement against the united states. that's next. our start up is not making any money yet
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as president obama gets ready to make a decision on syria, and we heard him last hour say specifically he has not made a decision yet, former president george w. bush is weighing in. >> the president has a tough decision to make and if he
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decides to use our military, he'll have the greatest military ever backing him up. i was not a fan of mr. assad. he's an ally of iran and he made mischief. the president has to make a tough call. i know you are trying to suddenly rope me into the issues of the day. i refuse to be roped in. >> our chief political analyst gloria borger joins me from washington. you listened to secretary of state john kerry today. you heard the former president, reporters trying to ask questions of him. it's not a matter of what do we do about it, we be the united states? >> i think if you listened to the secretary of state, it was very clear that he believed he didn't need to wait for information from the weapons
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inspectors, from the united nations. he said very clearly that a u.n. investigators can't tell us anything we don't already know. and between the secretary of state and a background call that senior administration officials had with journalists, it's very clear they believe the chain of custody goes through mr. assad and that they believe that this is a matter of great national interest that we let it be known that chemical weapons cannot be used, that it is indeed a war crime and that it affects our national interests all over the world, sends a message to iran and others. so there's no doubt in my mind that this president intends to do something. he said he hasn't made a firm decision. maybe he's still considering options. but they're going to do something. >> in terms of the something, though, a lot of members of congress want to be involved in that something, want to debate that something before anything
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concretely happens. you have sources on both sides of the aisle. >> they're not going to do that. >> what are they telling you? >> the president's not going to call the congress back. if he was going to do that, he would have done it already. by the way, he probably doesn't want a vote in congress because it's probably not at all clear he would win any kind of a vote in congress. it was very interesting to me that the president went out of his way, as well as the secretary of state, to say that this threatens our national security. if you look at the war powers act, you know, the president can act unilaterally when it is a matter of national security. so they are clearly making that case. at the same time, though, they are also making the case to the american people that this is a circumscribed attack, that it would be very narrowly targeted, that it would be kind of in and out and that this is not going to be iraq or afghanistan. the president himself made that point. because don't forget, his rise
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to power came out of an anti-war activism against the war in iraq and now the skepticism that he faces is the same skepticism he had years ago about george w. bush. >> as you have said, you look at the poll, we are a war weary nation and to quote christiane a amanpour, we have case of waritis.
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one of the issues "crossfire" has always covered and will cover in the future is national security and there are some big life-and-death questions. former secretary of defense robert mcnamara and about to be vice president dan quayle are debating america's strength and what we need to do to be safe in the last days of the soviet union. >> let me tell you something, they are proud of their military, they've invested a lot of money and you know what, it works. >> may i just interrupt one second. we shouldn't debunk the u.s. military. there isn't one single senior u.s. military commander who believes the abm system around moscow is anything other than a
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pile of junk. >> why, mr. secretary, did they put $200 billion in lacer weapons and -- >> they haven't. they put it in air defense that isn't worth a damn and our bombers can penetrate it. >> i'm brooke baldwin. "the lead" with john berman starts right now. this kind of attack is a challenge to the world. words from the administration as they make their case to strike syria. the world lead, exhibit a, a map showing areas around damascus supposedly hit by chemical weapons, a map that they are sharing. yet the president still hasn't made their decision. >> the national lead,

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